After his death, a second amendment supporter, leaves a message on gun violence

The following posthumous editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer on August 6, 2019. It speaks for itself.

“Larry Swenberg died of ALS this spring, a few months before gunmen killed 29 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Swenberg, a retired doctor of veterinary medicine in Durham, was a gun owner and avid hunter, but he was horrified at mass shootings inflicted by assault-style weapons. His wife, Gwen, sent us this op-ed from her husband last week, before Dayton and El Paso. One of his last wishes, she said, was to leave a message for his fellow Second Amendment supporters — and all of us.:

I am a 73 year-old retired doctor of veterinary medicine and a political independent who is neither a politician nor a Washington insider, but a citizen pleading to stop the carnage of assault weapons. I am a former hunter, recreational shooter, current gun owner, supporter of the Second Amendment, but never an NRA contributor.
In my plea for sanity, I prioritize assault weapons because of their availability and their ability to produce mass carnage. In the wake of a mass shooting in New Zealand committed with an assault weapon, it took five days for the country to ban the weapon. Our country’s ban expired in 2004, and the gun lobby and the NRA has spent millions to buy its continued extinction.

If your goal is to kill the greatest number in the shortest time, this is the weapon of choice. Many cry foul here, saying it is the shooter, not the weapon that is the problem. If you honestly prioritize human life over personal desire, then you must acknowledge the risk of assault weapons in the wrong hands as responsible for oft repeated slaughter of the innocent.

The NRA’s seven-million-dollar senator, Richard Burr of North Carolina, blithely maintains a ban would infringe on Second Amendment personal freedom. Are speed limits a similar infringement? This attitude reflects a disconnect which is mind numbing. This character flaw is common among politicians and America’s gun-owning public. People who fail to see blood on their hands for their inaction do so because guilt for their acts of omission is simply not a quality of their character.

The High Court has affirmed the congressional right to regulate firearms. Therefore the belief that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own an assault rifle is wrong. If politicians past and present had any integrity and not just self-interest, poor judgment or a lack of conscience, we would not have the cumulative carnage of assault weapons we presently have. Had Congress recognized its sin of omission and sought penance through action, we would not have the empty solace of our collective thoughts and prayers.

Think about this when you sit in a church pew, go to work, or enjoy hobbies: we all have the blood of omission on our hands, despite those who live in denial. So long as assault weapons are available publicly, the pathologically demented will use them to massacre the most numbers in the shortest time.

An author whose name I don’t recall wrote a person’s god is that to which ultimate allegiance is given – money, fame, power, etc. if you prioritize the petty position of a firearms over public safety, then your god is a gun no matter how many hours you sit in a church or bow to Mecca. You then are a first order hypocrite and must simply own this fact. It is a tragedy some people feel a felony must be committed to protect the public’s safety.

An assault weapons ban will not solve America’s gun violence but it would stop mass carnage in minimal time. Demand nothing less of Congress and the White House.”

 

 

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Rainy days and Mondays, especially today, get me down

Karen Carpenter sang “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” This weekend was a yet another sad chapter in America’s history. Plus, we learned 31 people died in a ferry capsizing in the Philippines. In California, an eroding cliff collapsed next to the shore killing three. And, Russia and China are coming down hard on protestors. These are signals.

In America, we have decided we cannot do anything to stop mass gun shootings. We have decided the politics are too hard to do the needed things that would help. We could start by acknowledging that we average 100+ gun deaths a day even without the mass shootings. Many of those deaths are suicides. Some of them are accidental shootings of kids who find a gun in the house. And, some of the homicides are due to mental health issues, lack of civil discourse, hate crimes, or drug crimes. The common thread is access to a weapon without better governance.

Yes, we must act on these signals. We must call hate speech on the carpet, especially if it comes from someone who is in a position of leadership. Dog whistle racism and xenophobia are fuel to a fire for some extreme thinkers. The ones who want status quo in gun laws will say “now is not the time” for change to gun governance. Apparently, “never is the time.” The ones who want status quo will say “that change would not solve this instance.” Yet, doing nothing at all is not solving much.

There are things we can do that, in sum, will help make a difference. If it saves a few lives, that is good. I want politicians to get in a room and I want them to check their politics. I do not care who wins and loses a political game, but it is obvious the dead people and their families are losing. It amazes me how little we did after Sandy Hook. We even had a conservative shock jock say for years Sandy Hook was not real. He is on trial for his hateful rhetoric for the damage he has caused to Sandy Hook families and should be.

The Philippines tragedy is terrible, but not getting much play here. It seems we don’t pay attention like we should when the weather sends us signals. Overloading ferries can be OK in calm waters, but it is a disaster when waters are rough, especially after two earlier ferries had issues. I think failing to heed signals causes far too many deaths. Here in the US, we are whistling past the graveyard in preface to the next infrastructure collapse. Around the world, we have signals telling us to plan ahead on eroding seashores, increasing floods with stalled and repetitive storm systems, increasing droughts in other areas and elongated and bigger forest fires. We need to act on these signals.

In Russia and China, the signals are telling us that we must not be like that. Civil protest is more than fine, yet we must emphasize the word civil. Yet, a regime that crushes the spirit of those who question things, is one that is sowing more seeds of discord, not fewer. A regime that squelches and controls the media is not one that wants to hear the truth. I am watching the mini-series called “The Loudest Voice,” about Roger Ailes and his creation of Fox News. He purposefully controlled what and how things were said, that he started believing his own BS.

Truth matters. Facts matter. Diligent preparation in the face of those facts matter. When people ignore problems, white-wash or deny the truth, and squash those who are trying to tell you those things, the future is hamstrung. As I say often, I do not care what people’s politics are, as usually they are a mixed bag like me, conservative on some things, progressive on others. What I do care about is when people ignore or massage the facts to make their tribe win. I a more concerned about the people who die, who struggle, who become infirmed, who are jailed inappropriately, etc. That is what our leaders should be concerned about and not spreading fear, hate and division to win an election.

 

A few Sunday meanderings

Good morning one and all. I hope your weekend is going well. Reading the Sunday newspaper and a few stories online, I thought I might meander a little on this Sunday, typing in tune with cicadas chirping outside.

A simple concept with a lot of big numbers – Swiss scientists have confirmed that planting one trillion trees would be one of the least expensive ways to take carbon out of the air. They note there are 3.5 million square miles of available land to do so. In the documentary “Ice on Fire,” which I wrote about a few weeks back, planting and maintaining forests was one of several key options that we should do. The scientists note this will only work if we stop putting so much carbon there in the first place.

A British ambassador speaks the truth about the US White House – Per a CNN report as reported by AFP.com, “Britain’s ambassador in the United States has described President Donald Trump and his administration as ‘inept’ and ‘uniquely dysfunctional’, according to leaked diplomatic memos published by the Mail on Sunday. Ambassador Kim Darroch reportedly said Trump’s presidency could ‘crash and burn’ and ‘end in disgrace’, in the cache of secret cables and briefing notes sent back to Britain seen by the newspaper.”  This is not news to people who pay attention to the machinations of the White House incumbent. My prediction is this will be called fake news from a loser network by said incumbent.

A day in the life, two more shootings in my city – If we rewrote John Lennon’s portion of the famous song “A Day in the Life.” which blended two separate songs, the other by Paul McCartney, we might have the following:  “I read the news today, oh boy, about two more shootings in the city I live. One was shot in an expensive hotel corridor, while the others in a famous fast food chain.”  Recognizing I did a poor job matching words with the notes, the sentiment is valid. Maybe, we should just report when no one is shot in the city, as that would be more newsworthy.

False equivalences abound – This is a pet peeve of Bill Maher, with which I agree. When someone commits a series of poor behaviors or says inappropriate things, members of the supporting tribe will parade out a false equivalence that is intended to balance the scales. The past few years, these false equivalences are paraded out to show that the president is not the only politician who lies. While that is true, the president has lapped the field several times with his lies. He lies far more than he does not, he has been recorded with over 10,000 lies as president, and five former associates (not the media, not Democrats) have been quoted, one under the oath, that the president is not very truthful including, but not limited to, his attorney fixer Michael Cohen, his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his former White Counsel Don McGahn, his former National Economic Advisor Gary Cohn and former attorney Thomas Wells. The latter noted “Donald Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.”

Why does the last item matter so much? Just read the leaked correspondence of the British ambassador. We are not trustworthy because our president is not trustworthy. And, it is hard to solve problems and build relationships if you cannot tell the truth. The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Climate change is a problem, but he tells us it is a hoax. Guns are part of our shooting death problems, but he won’t admit they are. He tells the children detention centers are well run. And, so on.

 

 

Underneath a few headlines

We get so consumed with the person who shall not be named, we lose sight of other stories. Here are a few on this Father’s Day.

– Hong Kong citizens reminded the financial city leaders they are promised a different path forward by their owner. One million people equal to 1/7 of the city’s population protested the proposed law to extradite people to mainland China. The law was postponed, as a result. It should be noted some big money investors threatened to move money to Singapore to aid their cause. I applaud their protest and shows the power of people. China can ill-afford the notoriety or flight of capital away from Hong Kong.

– An issue that needs attention today, is a subset of our US debt issue. Social Security will soon pay out more than its revenues. This will draw down the trust fund in a way to require automatic 20% cuts in sixteen years. Of course, we could act now and make less onerous changes, but politicians are not even talking about this issue, which is par for the course, in my view. Why plan ahead they ask by their failure to act? I have seen exercises where a group of locals solve the Social Security funding dilemma. It should not be that hard for our representatives to act like such.

– Another shooting at Costco in the Los Angeles area occurred this weekend. Public shootings are now so commonplace in the US, it made page four of my newspaper. And, that shows how derelict our so-called leaders are in failing to do anything of substance. We have become too inured to gun deaths in the US. This makes me sad and angry that our representatives are failing to address a huge problem that is killing people. If Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings can’t bring greater change, I truly do not know what will.

– Both Brazil and the US need more doctors, especially in rural areas. Brazil is seeing visiting Cuban doctors bail on them, as they are not getting paid what they are owed. Why is a good question? In the US, medical students are going more into specialty areas. With student debt, it is hard to practice in low income areas and in lower margin general services. There are good ideas with telemedicine, but doctors need to see their patients up close to assess risk, physical and environmental.

If you have not heard of these issues, it reveals how little we pay attention to news and news not related to a someone who commands so much attention. I am hard pressed to ever remember an occupant in the White House consume so much attention.

I could use a heavy dose of boring competence in a leader who need not be the center of attention. Maybe then, we could address some of these issues. So, let’s celebrate Hong Kong’s successful protest and speak to issues like these and others. Again, I hope fathers are having a wonderful day.

Out of the pool

I think it is time to fire any politician in Washington who is forgetting why they are there. We could start with the White House incumbent and then take out hundreds of members of Congress in both houses. I understand fully Congress must investigate and provide oversight over the Executive Branch. That is part of their job and the current incumbent has given them cause to dig further.

Yet, I have this simple idea that leaders of both houses sit down with legislative liaisons from the White House and figure out some things they can pass and sign into law. I think a civilian board could list about a dozen major issues to focus on and say work these out. It should not take a civilian board, but these folks are too beholden to funders to come up with a workable list.

A key reason for not listing the problems is too much discussion occurs around whether not solving an issue helps them politically. A curse word comes to mind, so please insert your favorite. A good example is a bipartisan Senate immigration bill was passed in 2013, but the House refused to take it up as leaving immigration unaddressed would help the Republicans in the 2014 midterms. The Democrats should not be smug as they do the same thing.

Because of the Republicans unhealthy focus on dismantling the Affordable Care Act, the party justifiably lost seats in the 2018 midterms. To be frank, they should have lost seats with a rushed process that did not follow form and came up with several awful ideas. They should also thank Senators John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski for saving them from themselves by voting against an ill-conceived vote.

But, what have Dems done with improving the ACA with their winning back the majority in the House – nothing other than “beating on their chest” bills that went nowhere? Not that they were bad bills, but don’t wait until an election in 2020 to address healthcare. The ACA is imperfect, but is working OK and needs some more stability and improvements due to initial design flaws and several efforts by the GOP to sabotage it.

So, Ms. Pelosi, Mr. McConnell, and Mr. Pence, get your fannies in a room with a white board and figure out how to get something done. I do not care which party benefits from what comes out of this. The key is we benefit. Do something that will be signed into law by the mercurial man in the White House. So, Mr. Pence you better have the Queen of Hearts’ blessing to make deals or you may lose your head.

Here are few items for the list:

  • Stabilize the ACA: pay insurers what we owe them (yes we reneged on two deals with them) and invite them back to the market to have more competition. Consider expanding Medicare to age 62 as a trial to improve the risk pools in both the ACA and Medicare. Push for the remaining states to expand Medicaid.
  • Address better gun governance: another mass shooting occurred yesterday and nobody in office cares. More suicides occurred yesterday and nobody in office cares. A few accidental shootings and homicides occurred and nobody in office cares. It is a holistic problem that needs holistic solutions. Do something, anything that will help even if it is just a little. Universal background checks and elongated waiting periods would be well received by the majority of Americans.
  • Address climate change at the federal level: Cities, states and some industries are moving forward without an active federal government role, which is rightfully being sued by 21 children for failure to address what they have known about for three decades. They actually have a good case. This is also a jobs and economy issue as we can look backwards and get passed by or look to growing renewables industries. As a good example of looking backward, we let China seize a significant majority of the rare earth metals market share from us which is now a threat to national security.
  • Address the debt and deficit: Trade deficits are not a big thing as we are a consumer driven economy. The far bigger crisis is our national debt and growing deficit. We have to pay for things and the less we do, the more risk we have with a growing interest cost as a percent of our annual budget. We must increase taxes and reduce spending, both. The GOP has forsaken its role in being a budget hawk passing a tax bill that made a growing problem worse. Revisit the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction plan and do some of those things.

I will stop there, but there are more problems to address. Immigration is a problem, but it has been made worse under this president by cutting funding to help some Central American countries improve the lives of their citizens and the lack of judges to address the increased migration. A wall is not an answer. It is merely a structure. Dusting off that bipartisan Senate bill from 2013 would be a good start as well as addressing DACA. We need to keep educated young people in our country, as growth is an issue.

So, legislators, please get in a room and do some things that will pass. The focus should be on helping Americans, not helping legislators. Stop worrying about keeping your job and do your job. And, yes continue your oversight role as we are a republic not a kingdom.

 

 

 

Tuesday’s gone with the wind -redux

Please hum one of my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd songs, “Tuesday’s Gone,” as you read a few miscellaneous thoughts this Tuesday. In no particular order:

– Most news agencies are purposefully not mentioning rhe killer’s name in Virginia Beach. I did hear the killer was a pleasant fellow by all accounts. This rebuts the comment about the good guy with a gun stoppng the bad guy – how do you know?

– Why must every issue or small thing be contentious? This president wears me out and has increased stress levels around the country. Please Mr. Trump stop commenting on so many topics. Please stop picking fights when they are not needed.

– And, the press needs to focus less on the many pedestrian faux pas of the president and more on the bigger issues like tariffs and trade, retrenching from our global position, climate change, environmental degradation, ignoring debt, and ongoing obstruction of justice and diminishing our democratic institutions. Coverage of the small stuff dilutes the impact of the large stuff.

– The middle part of our country is hurting with the flooding from these frequent behemoth storms that slowly move across the country. Plus, it is impacting farmers at the very time they must decide what to plant, which is influenced by the tariff issues.

– Finally, speaking of tariffs, political comedian Bill Maher noted on his show on Friday that Democrats should start calling tariffs what they are – a tax. He said they should be referred to as a “Trump Tax,”

That is all I have for this Tuesday. “Tuesday’s gone with the the wind. My baby’s gone with the wind.”

This is my home

Sadly and unsuprisingly, we are mourning yet another mass shooting in America, this time in Virginia Beach. A minister and police officer uttered the above heartfelt lament about the twelve lost lives, “this is my home.”

My hearts and prayers are for our legislators to recognize that our country has a problem. I pray that they recognize too many Americans are dying. I pray that they recognize that no action is not stopping the senseless violence. I pray they recognize doing something won’t stop all shootings, but could stop some.

There are multiple factors, so a solution must be holistic. And, if these politicians will take their hands out of the NRA’s pockets long enough, they could see Americans want changes to gun governance.

Yes, it is a mental health issue, Yes, it is a crime issue. Yes, it is an entertainment violence issue. Yes, it is a lack of civility issue. But, it is most certainly a gun issue.

So, for the umpteenth time:

– Background checks on all transactions, even personal ones will save some lives.

– Longer waiting periods on all transactions will help reduce suicides and mental health related homicides.

– Licenses should come with training requirements for acquisition and renewal.

– Bullets should be codified to help wit crime-solving as requested by police.

– All new guns should have owner finger-printed triggering (reduce suicides and accudentsj shooting).

– Medical doctors and psychologists should have liberty to ask any patient if they own a gun.

– Gun related deaths must be tracked by the CDC – you cannot fix what you do not measure, but that may have been the reason the NRA has fought this for years.

– And, it should be systemstically easier for a judge to be petitioned and to temporarily suspend gun ownership as mental health testing is done.

Notice I did not take anyone’s gun away unless he cannot pass a background check or a judge suspends his right, But, I personally believe no American needs an assault style or converted weapon.

Many Americans are tired of the politicians telling us why they will not act or do something. I am tired of their stale BS that I can write for them as I have heard it far too many times. Americans are dying and their loved ones really do not care if you hurt the NRA’s feelings. Our constitutional right to live free supercedes the right to own a gun, which has been expanded beyond what the Second Amendment actualjy says.

The NRA used to be about gun safety. They must regain that mission statement. Will these actions stop gun deaths – no? But, if we can stop some it would be worth it.